06 March 2011

Trout Fishing in America Revisited

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan is the most original, most courageous, and most imaginative works of fiction I've read.

I recently re-read this cult-classic, having originally read it in college 30 years ago. I did not appreciate Richard Brautigan's uncharted brilliance when I first read him.

Like a Speyside single malt aged some 30 odd years, Brautigan's work goes down easily. Today I get a weak-kneed head-buzz reading his work. His chapter "The Hunchback Trout" makes me want to either give up writing, or shit can my day job to devote my waning years to it.

Literary critics dismissed his work; wondering when he'd grow into a serious writer. Fortunately growing into a serious writer would never happen since in 1984 his 49 year-old melon met the business side of a bullet he swallowed alone in his Bolinas home.

In a passing brush with fame, I once filled water and wine glasses at Richard Brautigan's table at the Rocky Mountain Pasta Company circa 1977. Brautigan was seated at a round top for six that was peopled by friends indulging on Carmella Taverniti's signature seafood cannelloni, liters of cabernet, and hard booze ferried from the adjoining bar The Robin.

Trout Fishing in America was, and still is, so unlike anything I have read. Brautigan said in 1971 that he "wrote poetry for seven years to learn to write a sentence because I really wanted to write novels and I figured that I couldn't write a novel until I could write a sentence."

Brautigan's fiction existed so he could deliver deliciously poetic lines. Silvery lines delivered to the reader as a gift atop a silver fucking platter.

In reading his work, it feels like the novel form is the supporting medium like morsels of gray matter floating in formaldehyde. Like jokes that begin with "A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar", Brautigan's fiction conjures a story as a set up for thought-jarring imagery and poetic punch lines.

Richard Brautigan was a poet who invented fiction to give his poetry a home.

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